Arts and Entertainment

Exploring the words of Rumi

Ostad Hossein Omoumi, a master of the ney or reed flute of Iran, will perform Persian music.  - Courtesy Photo
Ostad Hossein Omoumi, a master of the ney or reed flute of Iran, will perform Persian music.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

This weekend, Islanders can step back in time to discover the haunting, passionate work of Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet, at an event featuring three acclaimed international guests and two celebrated musicians from Vashon.

The afternoon concert, “The Mystical Life of Rumi,” will be held in an evocative setting where lavish gardens, antique gates and stone pathways lead to a 100 year-old, intricately carved Javanese dwelling known as the Kudos House. The concert will be held inside the home, amidst delicate teak antiques and other rustic furnishings.

Jessika Kenny, an Island composer and vocalist with a deep interest in Persian music, has organized the event.

And while Kenney acknowledges that Rumi is already popular on the Island — in fact, he has long held the distinction of being one of the best-selling poets in the United States — she hopes that the concert will provide new context to appreciate his work.

“It’s such vast material; I just hope that it brings people into a deep place in their hearts,” she said.

Kenny has recruited an impressive lineup of international guests to explore the timeless power of Rumi’s words and teachings.

One of the performers, Ostad Hossein Omoumi, a teacher at the University of California, Irvine, is considered a master of the ney, the reed flute of Iran, as well as the vocal repertoire of classical Persian music.

Omoumi has devoted much of his professional life to performing music that brings to life the lyrical works Hafez, Rumi and other classical Persian poets. 

Born and raised in Isfahan, Iran, one of two centers of Persian classical music, Omoumi began playing the ney at age 14. He moved to Paris after the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1984, and eventually made his way to the Puget Sound region. From 2003 to 2005, he was a visiting artist in the ethnomusicology division at the University of Washington and performed at Meany Hall, Town Hall and elsewhere. It was during this time that Kenney met, studied with and began to perform with Omoumi.

She recently returned from a concert tour with Omoumi to Indonesia, and said that it was particularly fitting that their Vashon concert would be held at the Kudos House.

“Having spent that time in Indonesia together, part of the inspiration for this performance was to do it in this miraculous space on Vashon,” Kenney said.

Another concert guest, Fatemeh Keshavarz, has also collaborated with Kenney.

Keshavarz, an award-winning scholar who is known for her Rumi-related work, will perform readings and translations from the poet’s writings.

“She gives incredible talks about his poetry and his life, and her translations are profoundly true to the original,” Kenney said. “I love her point of view, which is so respectful to the art of poetry and to Rumi. His art as a poet is so incredible, and she opens doorways to understanding that.”

Pezhham Akhavass, a virtuoso of the tombak and daf, two ancient Persian drums, is also coming from the Bay Area to play in the concert.

Eyvind Kang, Kenney’s husband, will play setar and viola, and Kenney will sing.

Kang has performed and recorded with the likes of Bill Frisell, Robin Holcomb, Laurie Anderson and many other famed musicians. He is known worldwide for his music, which has been described variously as being both an experimental and classical approach to jazz.

Kenney currently teaches at the Cornish College for the Arts and has also had an international career in performing and recording music.

But with this concert, she’s looking forward to the chance to share her talents, and her passion for Rumi’s work, close to home.

“It will be a very contemplative performance, going into the idea of the poetry and then taking that into music that is is very intimate. My greatest hope is that people will go away from it wanting to search for that kind of experience in listening — to allow music and poetry to guide them into a deep place.”


“The Mystical Lyric of Rumi” concert will take place at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Kudos House. Tickets, $20 in advance at $25 at the door, can be purchased by calling Jessika Kenney at 463-3505 or by emailing Kenney will also provide directions to the Kudos House.

*Note: Kenny's number was incorrectly listed in the print issue of the Beachcomber.





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